I know there is strength in the differences between us. I know there is comfort, where we overlap.
It was a rare Saturday afternoon last spring when I found myself with a free hour. I raced to Elegant Nails and settled into one of the oversized chairs with a stack of magazines for some quiet and relief for my embarrassing winter toenails. I flipped through Portland Monthly and stopped to read an article about Dutch Brothers Coffee company. I enjoyed reading about the popular and successful Oregon company that I knew little about. Part of the article was an interview with one of the founders, Travis Boersma. Travis answered questions about how the company got started and his relationship with his brother. His response to the last question, “How has the company changed?” caught my attention. I read and reread his answer:
The culture [of Dutch Brothers] was a focal point, always, but we really thought we were in the coffee business. But the thing that occurred to me is we were in the relationship business and the product was love. That tipped the scales. When we made the culture the no. 1 priority, it was pretty pivotal [for the company’s success].
I was struck by his answer because I’ve been pondering the role of relationships in the classroom and how to articulate the importance of these relationships in developing not only a student’s academic skills, but the whole child, the whole classroom, and the whole school.
Recently, when a group of teachers left my classroom after a morning of observing they said, “We didn’t notice any behavior incentive charts or behavior systems — do you have them? Your kids are so well-behaved (and we can tell they aren’t the easiest bunch). What is your secret?”
It’s hard to know how to answer their questions. I don’t have a particular secret. Like many teachers, I have clear routines and expectations. I aim to create an environment that is welcoming and comfortable, but also stimulating to my students. And like many teachers, some days and years are better than others.
But thinking about Boersma and Dutch Brothers helps me articulate that I’m not just in the business of curricula, test scores, or data. I’m in the business of relationships. And when relationships are the business of the classroom, the product is community and learning.
This week we look at lunchtime optional activities to build communities around texts. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Contributor, Choice Literacy
BItsy Parks is a first-grade teacher in Beaverton, Oregon.
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In Recess of the Mind, Scott Jones explains how thinking outside the normal time frame for writing instruction helped him reach boy writers:
Ruth Shagoury and Andie Cunningham use dichos (sayings or proverbs) in many languages and cultures to build bridges between school and home:
Michelle Gajda has terrific tips for hosting after-school book clubs:
If you are thinking of launching a mock Newbery club in your school, now is the time to organize:
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Gigl McAllister explains why she hosts optional lunchtime author studies, with practical tips on getting started:
In this week’s video, Gigi facilitates one of her lunch author fan clubs, where everyone gets organized and brainstorms what they might explore in the group during this first meeting:
Tara Barnett and Kate Mills share how they use the first days and weeks of school to celebrate summer reading and build a classroom community:
Katrina Edwards dreads lunchtime with her first graders, until she makes a conscious effort to build storytelling skills and share experiences more thoughtfully within the group:
In an encore video, Katrina leads a minilesson with her first graders on how to have a good lunchtime conversation with a partner:
That’s all for this week!